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Frequently Asked Questions by PTA Students

Getting ready to graduate from PTA school? Trying to figure out how this licensure process works? Here are some answers to questions most asked by students planning to be licensed as physical therapist assistant in Illinois.

The Basics

This information applies to individuals who have never been licensed in any state, territory or other country before. This information is for those individuals educated in the United States or its territories.

According to the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR), you are eligible to take the exam once you have:

  • Graduated from an approved physical therapy program
  • Submitted a completed application
  • Paid all necessary fees

Can I submit my application prior to graduation?

  • Short answer: Yes. Here’s the catch: You can submit the application, but official approval to take the exam will not be given until proof of graduation is received.

    This means that if your official graduation is after a deadline for any given exam, you will have to wait until the next exam is given.

If I graduated from a PTA school that was not CAPTE accredited at the time of my graduation, can I still apply for licensure and take the exam?

  • Yes. Both the Rules for the Administration of the Illinois PT Act (Section 1340.20) and the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy’s NPTE eligibility requirements provide for individual review of a person’s education to determine if they meet the requirements to sit for the exam.

Once I receive my authorization letter from the IDFPR that says I am eligible for licensure except for passing the exam, I can work as a PTA under the supervision of a licensed PT.


What does supervision mean?

    • Supervision means that there is a licensed physical therapist on site to provide supervision.

How long is the letter from IDFPR good for?

    • The ability to practice, license pending, continues until the next examination is given, the results are received by the IDFPR and the IDFPR had determined your final eligibility for licensure.

And if I don't pass?

    • You can no longer practice physical therapy and must not do so (even under supervision of a licensed PT) until you pass the exam. Per 225 ILCS 90/2 (2) “Anyone failing to pass said examination shall not again practice physical therapy until such time as an examination has been successfully passed by such person.”

I have graduated from PTA school, have my authorization letter to test, and am working as a PTA under the supervision of a licensed PT.

How do I sign my notes?

    • The Act is silent on this issue so there is no regulatory answer to this. Many facilities choose to have the notes co-signed to indicate that a licensed PT was supervising the new graduate.

I passed the exam but don't have the notice that I am licensed yet.

Do I still need to work under the supervision of a licensed PT?

    • Yes

If the IDFPR website indicates that I am licensed prior to receiving the individual notification in the mail, does that count?

    • Yes. As soon as the license is issued, the license number will be posted on the License look up section of the IDFPR website and you may practice. You do not wait until you have the paper license in hand, although some employers may require you to do so.

I DID NOT pass the exam but I am working as a PTA under the supervision of a licensed PT.

Can I continue to do so until I pass the exam?

    • No. Per 225 ILCS 90/2 (2) “Anyone failing to pass said examination shall not again practice physical therapy until such time as an examination has been successfully passed by such person.”

Is there a limit to how many times I can take the exam?

    • The Illinois PT Act does not limit the number of attempts but, per Section 1340.40 of the Rules, after 3 failures the applicant must comply with remedial training requirements.

      The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT), however, has limits on how often and how many times a candidate may sit for the National Exam (NPTE). As the requirements are changing as of 2016, you should check here to review the rules.

Who establishes the remedial training requirements and how do I set it up?

    • The Physical Therapy Licensing and Disciplinary Board reviews remedial training programs. You should contact the IDFPR for instructions on how to develop your remedial training program.

Is there a limit to how many years can pass between attempts to pass the exam?

    • The Act and Rules do not limit the amount of time between graduation, taking, or passing the licensing exam. Your application to the IDFPR for licensure, however, is only valid for 3 years. After 3 years, you would need to submit updated forms and the fees again.

I am a recent grad and got my license in a different state because I could either take the exam prior to graduation or could file prior to graduation. I want to apply in Illinois for licensure by endorsement.

Can I work in Illinois under my other state license until my Illinois license is granted?

    • Short answer: No. Per the Act and Section 1340.50 of the Rules: “When an applicant for licensure by endorsement as a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant is notified in writing by the Division that the application is complete, the applicant may practice in Illinois for one year or until the licensure has been granted or denied, whichever period of time is lesser, as provided in Section 2(4) of the Act.”

      That being said, licenses are issued when all requirements are met. So if your application is complete, you will just receive your license and not a separate notice that your application is complete. They will send you a deficiency notice if your application is not complete, or if there is an issue to be resolved before licensure by endorsement can be issued.

I understand that in order to maintain a physical therapist assistant license in Illinois, I must complete 20 hours of continuing education (CE) prior to each licensure renewal date (September 30th of each odd year).

Once I am licensed as a physical therapist assistant in Illinois, when do I start needing continuing education (CE) hours to renew my license?

    • CE is required after the first renewal. In other words, if you become licensed anytime between now and September, 2019, you do not need to complete CE before you renew your license on September 30, 2019. You will need to complete your CE before you renew your license for the next renewal cycle (September 30, 2021).

Are there rules about what counts for CE in Illinois?

    • Yes. You should review Section 1340.61 Continuing Education of the Rules for the Administration of the PT Act as there is information about what constitutes an approved course, as well as limits on the number of credits earned for certain types of CE. For example, only 50% of your CE requirements can be met through self-study activities.

Important Links

The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy
(Information on the National Physical Therapy Examination and links to Licensing authorities)

Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, Division of Professional Regulation
(Illinois Licensing Authority)

Continental Testing/Prometric
Scheduling NPTE

 The content of this page is offered only as general information and as a public service and does not constitute provision of legal advice. This information should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney license or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. For questions specific to your individual licensure, please contact the Illinois Department of Finance and Professional Regulation.

updated: 07.16.15


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